Summary and Info
This book is essentially an expanded and updated version of the classic "Dictionary of German Synonyms" by B.K. Farrell, one of my all-time favorite language books. The books share some remarkable similarities and I am incorporating my review of that book in this review.
Recently in my German conversation class I remarked something to the effect that every time I make a presentation to a large group I am thankful that "am mindestens ist es auf Englisch" that is, "at least it's in English," my native tongue. My instructor, a native speaker of German, instinctively corrected my use of the term "am mindestens," saying that I should have said "am wenigstens ist es auf Englisch," but when asked, she realized that although she was sure "am wenigstens" would be correct, she couldn't really explain why.
I naturally turned my old reliable "Dictonary of German Synonyms", one of my favorite language books, for clarification. The distinction is apparently that "am mindestens" should be used primarily with precise numerical amounts, such as for example "I drank at least 2 liters of Gluhwein last night." I say "apparently" because the explanation in Farrell's book is actually a bit cryptic.
Much more clear is the more recent and larger (and more expensive) "A Practical Dictionary of German Usage" by K.B. Beaton. The two books are extremely similar. Farrell was a Professor of German at the University of Sydney and his book was published by Cambridge University Press. Beaton was a Senior Lecturer in German Studies at the University of Sydney and his book is published by Oxford University Press. Why the University of Sydney would be the center of English language research in German synonyms is a curiosity, but if not Sydney, Australia, where should they be studied?
Beaton acknowledges Farrell's pioneering work in the field but clearly believes it was already out of date by the 1960s. If you can only afford one book, I suppose I would recommend the more expensive Beaton, but despite the similarities I still find Farrell's older work more readable. If nothing else, Farrell's book is less unwieldy and easier to read for pleasure.
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